BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Blytheville firefighters are investigating the cause of a fire that heavily damaged the Abilities Unlimited thrift store in Blytheville.
Firefighters responded to the call of a fire in the 300 block of East Main at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.
Blytheville fire chief Mike Carney said all of the employees and customers were able to exit the building safely.
Three firefighters were injured battling the blaze. "One of them is actually still in the hospital. It's my understanding he's there for observation. I talked to him last night he appeared to be doing fine, but the other two are out and actually both back on the job," said Chief Carney.
According to Chief Carney, two suffered smoke inhalation. One of them was released after receiving treatment. The other is still being held at a Blytheville hospital for observation. A third firefighter fell from a step ladder and sprained his wrist.
The fire has left store owner Darren May and his employees uncertain about the future of the up-and-coming downtown business.
Unlimited Abilities has been open for eight years.
"Business was improving. the staff was dedicated they were passionate about what they were doing here about building the customer base and about providing an opportunity for folks to come in and find a bargain," May said.
None of the shoppers, clients, or employees was injured. May said people in the building were his main concern. "Today, that's the most important thing, that our people were out safely, and that the firemen there, there were no serious injuries for any of them, and the building (fire) is out."
May believes the parts of the building used for retail space and the area employees used to sort and process donations are irreparable, as is the burned merchandise. "All of the donations that were in that area are destroyed."
However, the employees are picking up right where they left off. "We do have other donations that's at our other location here in Blytheville, and that's where the employees and clients that were working here yesterday area at today, and they're back to work today," May said.
"We don't anticipate not having a thrift store here in Blytheville. It's just a matter of getting everything taken care of that we have to take care of."
Chief Carney said the processing and retail areas sustained considerable damage, and that says the fire may have started in a large pile of clothes that were in storage. He said the fire then moved to the second story of the building and eventually to the roof.
Blytheville fire marshal Jeff Camp said the investigation as to what caused the fire is ongoing.